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Friday, February 5, 2016

Single Malt Report: Balvenie 12 year old Signature (Batch #5, 40%abv edition)

On Wednesday I reported on Balvenie's late 10 year old Founder's Reserve.  Today, I'm reviewing Founder's's replacement, the 12 year old Signature.

Like Founder's (and unlike Doublewood), Signature was a blend of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casksm but it's NOT an ex-sherry finished product.  It came into the market in 2008 as Founder's was being phased out.  In 2012, the Signature was then phased out entirely.  Perhaps it was due to an aged stock shortage (2011 was a big year in volume sales for the industry) or the distillery wanted to prevent confusion between their two 12 year old whiskies.  In any case, out it went, never to be replaced by another married-rather-than-finished product.

On a side note, Balvenie's official site has an "Archive" page devoted to their former whiskies.  You'll recognize many of those products.  There's a Founder's Reserve page in there too.  But there is, conspicuously, no listing of the Signature.  This is especially weird because I remember their "Our Range" page listing the Signature even after it had been phased out.  You may start your conspiracy theories......now.

Today's sample was purchased from Master of Malt in the spring of 2013, thus it's the UK's 40%abv edition.

Distillery: Balvenie
Ownership: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Type: Single Malt
Age: minimum 12 years
Maturation: ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, married
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Bottling year: 2011
Chillfiltered? Likely
Color added? Probably a little bit
Note: I tasted the Founder's Reserve and Signature side-by-side.

The Signature's color is noticeably darker than the Reserve's.  More age?  More sherry casks?  More e150a?

Lots of toasted grains arrive first in the nose.  Then caramel, strawberry candy, and salty seaweed.  There's cat fur (though that note has been questioned before), orange oil, and saltines.  After 20 minutes, a youthful cinnamon bark note shows up, and maybe some furniture polish.

Some surprising thickness to the palate, considering its ABV.  It's all honey, caramel sauce, and vanilla at first.  With air, the caramel sauce becomes toffee pudding.  Then there's toasted marshmallow and hints of circus peanuts and zesty oak spice.

That oak spice stays through the finish.  Vanilla, malt, and small moments of toffee and circus peanuts.  A decent length to it all.

The Signature felt bolder and fuller than the Founder's Reserve at times, but perhaps that's because more oak pokes through.  It feels a little heavier, despite the lower ABV.  But at the same time, this 12yo had more young notes than the 10yo.  I still liked it a lot, and at 43% it probably could be as good or better than the Doublewood.  It's yet another very nice drink from Mr. Stewart's lab.  Goodness, I remember when Founder's Reserve, Signature, and Doublewood could all still be found on LA's shelves in early 2011 for $45 or less.  Now we just have Doublewood pushing $60.

Availability - Secondary market, or perhaps on a lucky dusty hunt
Pricing - ???
Rating - 84 (the 43%abv edition may be a few points higher)